Legitimacy and the Sociology of Modernization

Author: José Casanova

March 1, 1979

In this book chapter Casanova chronicles and critiques the development of a distinctly American sociological tradition in the postwar era. Casanova describes an intellectual field that, like the US itself, expanded its horizons far and fast in the aftermath of WWII from a "parochial" interest in domestic affairs to meet the administrative and intellectual demands of the neo-imperialism that replaced the colonial paradigm. Still, Casanova points out the American strand's indebtedness to established European schools of sociology and its function as a pseudo-technocratic field designed to parse and analyze the world over which the US was quickly achieving hegemony. Bringing a wider lens to the debate, Casanova ultimately advocates adopting a broader view—"a comparative, historical and differentiated sociology"—as "the best tool for an interpretation of our present world." He concludes by proposing that this wide-angle sociology take a more global view and incorporate three "determinants"—the horizontal, the vertical, and the human—to further nuance its analysis of an empirically modernizing world. This chapter was published in Conflict and Control: Challenge to Legitimacy of Modern Governments (1979, eds. Arthur J. Vidich and Ronald M. Glassman).

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